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History & Folklore of Gozo

At the Boathouse Restaurant, we love and appreciate our ancient history. We have put togther this article to give you some background about our lovely island and share with you the appreciation that we hold for this little jewel that knows ages of history.

Gozo History

The history of Gozo goes back to 5000 BC when a group from Sicily managed to cross on a small boat, colonizing the island of Gozo for first time (Neolithic 5000 - 4100 Bc) who probably lived in caves on n the outskirts of San Lawrenz village probably on Ghajn Abdul Plateau close to Il-Mixta, located in the northwest part. There is a large cave separated in two by a natural column and a wall made by man. The pottery sherds that were discovered in that area are older than other ceramics found in other parts of the Maltese Islands, which could mean that Gozo was discovered earlier than Malta.

The phase of the Temple Period (4100 -2500 BC) represents an important turning point in the cultural evolution of prehistoric man. The greatest undertaking of the pre-Phoenician Gozitans are undoubtedly the temples of Ggantija(3600 - 3000 BC) that are in Xaghra, and are considered the oldest free-standing structure in the world. The temples take their name from the Maltese term “Ggant” which means “giant”, due to the size and height of these megaliths, with impressive cornerstones and a huge back wall of the southern temple.

In this place, it is possible to find 2 temples, that although it shares a common façade, each unit of the temple has a separate entrance. The southern temple is the oldest of the two, besides being the largest and best preserved and has a five-apse plan. The left apse in the second pair of apses has three complete niches with caps. Some of the theories maintain that could refer to a triple divinity. In the opposite apse, there are the remains of a circular stone chimney, where you can also see the remains of a small enclosure where religious events were held.

The entrance of the north temple is very similar to that of the first temple; only the threshold is narrower and shorter and it’s considerably smaller, but with a more evolved four-apse plan having its rear apse replaced by a shallow niche.

After many theories, the mysterious way in which these enormous stones were extracted, transported and then raised vertically in those primitive times is still unknown. According to an old legend, the work was carried out by a giantess named Sansuna, who lived on a diet of beans and water and carried the megaliths of her head. Around this area there are some stone balls scattered, which probably served as rollers to transport these huge blocks of stone.

After the disappearance of the temple people, the islands were repopulated by a totally different race.

Bronze Age (2500 - 700 BC). The new inhabitants were warriors who used copper and bronze tools and weapons, even incinerated their dead. The most interesting remains found on Tac¬enc plateau, there are three dolmens, where you can see a horizontal slab of the irregular shape of limestone, supported on three sides by stone blocks.

Phoenicians and Carthaginians (700 - 218 BC). At this time the Phoenicians established a colony Malta and Gozo attracted by local ports. Around 500 BC, the Phoenicians of Carthage took control of the island and the Carthaginians kept the islands under their power until 218 BC. On the outskirts of the village of Santa Lucija, there are remains of a Punic rock sanctuary in Ras iL-Wardija, right on the southwestern tip of Gozo.

Romans (218 - AD 535). At the beginning of the Second Punic War in 218Bc, the Romans managed to defeat the Carthaginians, and created a municipium in Gozo, autonomous of Malta with a republican government that minted its own coins. As a result, Christianity was implanted in the islands for the first time. It is noteworthy that St. Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked in Malta while traveling to Rome, in the year 60 AD.

Byzantines (535 - 870). In spite of the little knowledge that is known of the Byzantine period in Gozo, around AD 535, the islands passed under the dominion of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Arabs (870 - 1127). In 870, the Alabaster Arabs settled in the Maltese archipelago, and even the Punic dialect that originated with the Phoenicians was greatly affected in its structure. The Arabs stay is evidenced by many names of places and surnames. A clear example is a name given to the island of Gozo - Ghawdex, as it is also known today.

European domination (1127 - 1530). The Arabs were expelled from the islands thanks to Count Roger Norman, although they remained as teachers paying tribute. In 1127, the Normans took possession, and in this way both Gozo and Malta shared the same destiny of Sicily passing successively under the government of Swabia (1194), Angou (1266) and Aragon (1282). A feudal regime was established, in which the inhabitants were required large taxes. Around 1397, the Gozitanos created the UniversitasGaudisii, a corporation to defend local interests, who fought to maintain their old privileges and freedom.

Knights of San Juan (1530 - 1798). OnMarch1530, the islands passed under the rule of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, a knightly religious order, which although started in 1099 was not made official until 1113. In 1551, the island suffered the worst siege of its history, since the citadel was besieged by the Turks of Sinam Pasha. The medieval walls, without flanks and embankments to resist the bombardment of gunpowder, were not a great impediment and the fortifications succumbed quickly.A tombstone in the local cathedral recalls that horror in the commemoration of Bernardo Dupuo, who had to kill his own wife and daughters to save them from slavery and concubinage, two fates worse than death, and who finally died fighting the Turkish pirates. The entire population was taken to slavery.

Gozo Folklore

The local folklore reaches its climax during the festivals, although there are quite a lot of folkloric celebrations throughout the year.

The carnival, which is usually in February, is celebrated five days before Ash Wednesday. It began to be celebrated before about 1530, during the Aragonese domination and has continued to grow and expand. During these five days through the streets of the city, there are parades of colorful artistic floats, grotesque masks and dance companies of all ages. In the villages of Nadur and Xewkija, a spontaneous carnival is organized after sunset, where hundreds of people walk along the main street dressed in incredible costumes and masks.

The week of Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, known as Holy Week, is full of religious and folkloric shows. The most important event takes place on Good Friday, during which there is a procession through the streets of the town where various representations of various moments of the passion and death of Christ take place. Several hooded men swore to walk in the procession, dragging heavy iron chains tied to their ankles or carrying a heavy cross. In addition, some children and young people are dressed in period costumes. The most impressive thing is the Roman legion, which highlights its armor, spears and shields that are announced with trumpets and percussions. The city band accompanies the procession.

In several villages, there is a procession with the statue of the risen Christ on Easter morning, and when they arrive at the town square, the bearers stop for a moment and then return to the Risen Christ inside the church running.

Mnarja (the illuminated one) was celebrated on June 29 and is the festival dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

On the eve of Mnarja, the Gozitanos used to go to Il-Buskett, in Nadur, to eat rabbit fried in garlic and celebrate it with wine while playing the guitarist around the bonfires to entertain the crowd. Nowadays, only the traditional horse and donkey races held in Nadur are maintained. In addition, there is an agricultural exhibition of a great variety of local products and livestock, which is celebrated on the Sunday before June 29.

Mnarja was such an important celebration in the past, that in wedding contracts it was written that the groom had to take his girlfriend to the party during the first year of marriage.

In mid-August, on the 14th and 15th a large-scale Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition is held at il-Mall, the public gardens of Victoria. Inspired by the Great Exhibition of London of 1851 and celebrated since 1855, it is one of the most important events for the farmers of Gozo, since they can exhibit the best products of their farms and fields, although fewer people depend on agriculture, the program It is still very popular. It’s a day to show off the giant pumpkins, the clearest honey, the fattest cow or even the most colorful plumage of the peacock. On the morning of August 15, the President of Malta presents the prizes to the best exhibitors.

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